Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 12:05pm
New draft legislation from U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has sparked backlash from webcasters and broadcasters alike. The bill's opponents say it discrimnates against new technology and would kill jobs.
Nadler's bill, the Interim FIRST Act, would raise streaming royalty costs for AM/FM broadcasters by imposing an extra fee (essentially adding an over-the-air performance royalty to broadcasters' streaming bills; RAIN coverage here). It would also potentially raise royalty rates for satellite and cable radio by shifting those platforms' rate determinations to the "willing buyer/willing seller" model, instead of the 801(b) standard.
"Fairness demands that all music related rate settings utilize the same 801(b) standard," argued Pandora founder Tim Westergren in a statement.
Westergren called the current royalty system "astonishingly unfair," with Internet radio paying substantially higher rates than other radio platforms. Pandora paid nearly 70% of total revenue to royalties (based on its Q1 FY 2013), compared to SiriusXM which pays about 8%.
"Congressman Nadler’s discussion draft would only perpetuate this hypocrisy and worsen an already flawed legislative mistake that is discriminating against new technology and hampering innovation."
Cathy Rought of the Free Radio Alliance (FRA) said Nadler's bill "is misguided and would cause irreversible harm to free and local radio" (more here). The FRA continues on its blog (here): "It's clear that the ultimate objective is a back door attempt at a performance tax."
NAB spokesperson Dennis Wharton agreed, saying the draft legislation "fails to recognize" radio's "unparalleled promotional value" and "would kill jobs" at radio stations.
The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) also "strongly opposes" Nadler's legislation, writing in a statement that it "would place a new and unwarranted burden on many Christian radio broadcasters" (more here).
TechDirt's Mike Masnick writes (here), "As it stands now, [royalty] rates are so damaging that Pandora -- the top player in the space -- has made it clear it may never be profitable. Yes, never. Nadler's bill would effectively make sure that no one else in that market would be profitable either. The end result? Many of these services don't exist or never get started. That would actually mean fewer services, fewer listeners and lower royalties."
Nadler's bill has the support of the musicFIRST Coalition, which argues it would implement a system "that treats artists and platforms fairly and equally." Nadler thinks his bill would "both level the playing field for Internet radio and ensure that artists are fairly compensated."
Pandora disagrees, instead supporting legislation from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). Chaffetz's bill, the Internet Radio Fairness Act of 2012, would move web radio royalty rate determinations to the 801(b) standard -- the same standard currently used to set rates for radio delivered via satellite, cable and other platforms (RAIN coverage here).
"Congress should embrace the Chaffetz approach," said Westergren. The Hill has more coverage here.